Libraries lead regional collaboration

The Riverina Regional Library (RRL), based in Wagga Wagga, has a 35-year history of collaborative service provision across multiple council areas.

During that time, it has grown to be the largest regional library in NSW serving 134,360 residents in 12 council areas covering 39,270 sq km through 18 branches and two mobile libraries that visit 61 communities.

An Executive Council is appointed to administer RRL on behalf of all member councils. An Integrated Planning Strategy, supported by Service Level Agreements and aligning with the Integrated Planning and Reporting framework for each council, underpins the operation of the organisation. An Advisory Committee, consisting of representatives from all member councils, meets twice per year.

The RRL service model focuses on the provision of ‘customer ready’ products to branch libraries, which are developed and/or administered at RRL Headquarters. The model is built around a Collections to Clients strategy, which has guided service provision since 2005, and departs from the traditional collections focus in favour of an end-user (client) focus through innovative approaches to the delivery of library products.

To achieve this:
  • collection services have been outsourced in favour of staff redeployment to customer–ready program development
  • an enabling organisational structure has been implemented
  • technology has been maximised through library management system optimisation and Radio Frequency Identification implementation
  • member councils and libraries are closely involved in collections, services and programs planning
  • design and scheduling of mobile libraries is applied for maximum community benefit

RRL is closely involved with service provision support at the local level RRL has established a dynamic and scalable service model that is fully capable of providing flexible responses to the ever-changing environment of the public library sector.

The capability of the model was tested in mid 2013 when four additional council areas requested admission to RRL. The seamless transition of the extra council areas, which saw the organisation grow by 42 percent in the number of branch libraries, is testament to the success of this strategy.

RRL’s continuous improvement focus has provided great results in customer satisfaction rates. The organisation has engaged an external agency to assess the level of customer satisfaction of its member councils and branch libraries since 2009. In the period 2009—2012, overall satisfaction rates increased from 71 percent to 95 percent, largely due to the client-focussed service model accompanied by a strong commitment to address identified areas of service detriment.

RRL Executive Director Robert Knight said Riverina Regional Library was an outstanding example of the efficiency and productivity that could be achieved through collaboration and resource sharing.

“All that is required is political agreement, financial commitment, and a dynamic model that delivers transparent and mutually agreed outcomes.”